Thursday, April 10, 2014


I'm torn on what to do.  The Weather in episode 15 of Welcome to Night Vale is a song by Tom Milsom, who has been accused of statutory rape.  This puts me in a similar situation as fans of Woody Allen who believe the accusations of rape levied against him.  Does one separate the art from the artist, condemn the art because of the artist, or account for the bad aspects of the artist as well as the good when considering the art?  There are plenty of jazz, classical, and rock musicians who have done horrible things, from Wagner's anti-Semitic remarks and Gesualdo's murders to James Brown's alleged abuse of his third wife.  Yet I still appreciate their music.  So I will analyze "A Little Irony" by Tom Milsom, while condemning the acts he is alleged to have done.

This is a love song, from the perspective of a mad scientist.  Unlike Jonathan Coulton's "Skullcrusher Mountain," Milsom's scientist has listened to the voice in his head (his little irony?) to kill everyone, including the girl he fell in love with after freezing her. 

The scientist is apparently an accomplished pianist (and British), giving himself a florid introduction.  The first verse and chorus stay solely with piano accompaniment, as he contemplates freezing the world to keep it from getting worse.  The rest of the band joins in as his heart starts beating in the second verse, a rather on-the-nose example of text painting.  Another example is the pause on "stop" in the first verse.  This effect (and the whole world-freezing) might have been influenced by Joss Whedon's Doctor Horrible.

Milsom's chord progressions are rather interesting.  The whole piece is in E major, with  plagal cadences at the end of each stanza of the verses.  The chorus oscillates between I and vi chords, I suppose demonstrating the uncertainty of the mad scientist to share his love/oops-sorry-I-killed-you thoughts.  More interesting are the F# major chords that come between the vi and IV chords in the verses.  These major II chords fit better as semi-tonal voice-leading - the E and G# slide up to F# and A#, the F# and A# slide down to E and A - than in an functional sense.  The second and third verses add tonicizations of the vi chord, and the bridge weakens the only dominant chords with deceptive resolutions and chromatic planing. 
Verse 1:  Time should stop moving / And never go beyond today / If we could find a way to stop / The world would be okay

If I'd thought about it sooner / It wouldn't have been downhill / But I'll make the best of what I've got / While I've got it still

Chorus: Do you wanna know / A little irony about me / I don't know if I should say / This little irony about me

Verse 2:  But it's funny 'cause my heart has started beating / It never has before today / It must be something in the way / She looks at me

She started screaming / Before I made the earth stand still / Of all the people I could kill / It had to be


Verse 3: But it's funny because love was just a Feeling / Irrelevant before today / But now I've gotta find a way / To make her real

Freezing / Was just for me to get away / But now I need to learn to stay / And make her real

Bridge:  When all the world around me / Moved so unpredictably / A moment never lasted long enough / For me to see the reason why

Love never came to me / It moves unscientifically / But now you're trapped and I can Find a reason now to ask you one more time

Coda:  But you'll move me more forever / Than you ever could before today.

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